Quick-fix fundraising? It’s time to invest your energy elsewhere.

Quick-fix fundraising? It’s time to invest your energy elsewhere.

We’ve tried every fundraising trick in the book and we’re still not growing our annual revenue. What are we doing wrong?


Frustrated Executive Director

The ways, means, and methods you can fundraise in 2019 are endless, aren’t they?

We have it all.

The campaigns and peer activism are creative and never-ending: give-your-birthday, Mother’s day, grow a beard, have a garage sale, bake sale, run a really long distance, create art and give proceeds, host a dinner party, host an “un-event” where nobody comes, organize a board-game night, plan a casino night, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, and eating contests (oh my!)...and then we must not forget the ice-bucket challenge.

Then there are the fundraising tactics at events... silent auctions, active bidding auctions, auctions on your phone, text-to-give, raffle tickets, heads or tails, paddle raises...

And I can use every technology under the sun - I’ll spare you the list here! You get the picture.

I talk to people every week who are struggling to raise funds and feel frustrated at their lack of progress. I often ask them to tell me about their activities surrounding their mid-level or major-level portfolio. I ask, “How do you plan and approach a donor to actively solicit them?”


You see, I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and dig into these fun campaigns and events, too. These days, Mother’s Day Campaigns are overdone, but I once created a killer campaign for moms where I had to turn of  my email notifications because we got so many donations in a 24-hour period. But I have to admit by only the third year, it was not yielding enough revenue to justify the time we had to invest annually to try to make it better.

There is a time and place for many fun campaigns and event activities I’ve described. But not at the risk of hijacking the time it takes to cultivate, encourage, educate, prospect, and solicit larger donors and gifts that are going to make the biggest difference in your organization.

Here’s a rule of thumb exercise I like to do with clients (and you can do right now). Let’s pretend this year your organization has an annual need of $700,000. We know the top 30 gifts your organization needs each year should be a variety of sizes equaling between 50-75% of your organization’s overall giving. So, if you are the primary (or only) fundraiser, you need to spend at least 50% of your fundraising time on these top donors.

Pause and think about that.

If you are the sole fundraiser for an organization you need to spend 2.5 - 3.75 days a week meeting with donors, educating donors, listening to donors, understanding why they said yes to a meeting with you, thanking them, expressing the impact of their gift to them, preparing exclusive content for them, and becoming their friend.

All top 30 of them.

Deep, thoughtful interaction that serves the donor’s needs. This is how you will retain their gifts year after year.

(And it’s OK if a major donor for you is a $1,000 gift right now - the same principle still applies)

You see, you are going to grow your organization in the healthiest and most sustainable way possible when you press pause on the quick-fix fundraising approaches and invest time and energy into those donors who can transform your organization. Time is money and you (yes, YOU!) are valuable to your organization. So, spend your valuable time on the most profitable activities you can.

Do a time check these next few weeks. One of the most important characteristics an executive director can have is humble self-reflection - the ability to course correct oneself. You can do this!

Every month I tackle one of the most common statements or questions I hear from leaders of Nonprofits. If you are reading this and share a similar concern or issue, I hope the advice was constructive and gave you a little inspiration today.

If you feel like you need help and want to discuss, please email me directly here. Let’s see if you and your organization are the right fit for my 90-Day Fundraising Bootcamp.

- Sherry

2019 is YOUR Year!

2019 is YOUR Year!